Edina designer Heather Fox shares her tips for easy, chic tablescapes.
Watching the 1989 classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a holiday tradition for many families. Among the movie’s more memorable quips is one from Ellen Griswold, the exasperated wife and mom trying to pull together a big turkey dinner for her eccentric extended family. With a resigned shrug, she says, “I don’t know what to say! Except that it’s Christmas, and we’re all in misery.”
It’s a line that still resonates with many holiday hosts every November and December; the stress of planning and executing dinner for a large group, complete with every festive trimming, can feel overwhelming. But hosting doesn’t have to be this way. For those who might consider themselves domestically challenged, we’ve enlisted the help of a local hero: Edina-based design expert Heather Fox. Fox—who recently opened a new retail space in Edina—will help you figure out what you need (and don’t need) to create a perfect holiday tablescape this season. Happy decorating!
When you’re selecting a color palette for your holiday table, should you go bold or go subtle? Some folks favor a simple aesthetic, with more natural or muted colors. Some prefer bold colors, patterns and extra flounces. Fox says, when it comes to holiday decorating, follow your instincts. “There will always be a place for ‘traditional Christmas,’” she says. If you like a classic red and green color scheme, miniature villages and natural trees, lean into that.
If you’d like to try a more modern take on the classics, consider one of this year’s most popular colors: blush. “You can try soft sage and light blush as kind of a modern take,” Fox says. “It’s pink and sage, instead of red and green.” Plus, a softer color scheme can take your design from November to January. “It’s more of a winterscape than strictly holiday,” she says.
Fox says she’s also seeing a trend toward more whimsical, kitschy holiday decor. Some of her clients love bright, rainbow colors or deep jewel tones, which can be beautifully mixed with green and red.
“We’re also seeing more metallics,” she says. “They’ve always been popular at the holidays, but we’re seeing more little gold or silver trees and glistening leaves and garlands.”
Fox says most families are leaning away from heavy, traditional linens like tablecloths. For a pop of color (or soft neutral), choose beautiful cloth napkins. “But if you’re really trying to make your table look beautiful, I think the answer is always candles and flowers,” she says. “Just mix those simple things.”
To keep it laid-back, eschew expensive floral arrangements, and put a centerpiece together yourself using Fox’s foolproof steps.
Visit a grocer that stocks beautiful fresh flowers (Fox likes Trader Joe’s), and select several bundles of different stems. Go for simple colors that can be mixed and matched.
Select three or four individual stems that catch your eye from your bunches, and put them together into a small posy. Be sure to include some simple greenery. Remember not to overthink it. “You can’t really go wrong,” she says.
Choose your containers. “I love taking 10 small glass vases in different colors and sizes,” she says. “Then I’ll take three or four stems that look good together and put them in a vase.” If flower arranging doesn’t fill you with joy—that’s OK! Go for an even easier approach with a chic, monochromatic look. “You can buy the same simple white flower, like hydrangeas, and put four or five in a big bowl,” she says. “Mix in some simple greenery.”
Don’t forget the candles. “You can find a handful of little candlesticks—they don’t have to match,” she says. Go for a variety of shapes and sizes, including pillar and taper candles.
Arrange your table. Lay out your vases along the length of the center of the table. and intersperse the candles. “There’s something about candles being lit and fresh flowers that feels so easy and beautiful,” she says.
Serve it Up
For many younger families, gone are the days of large sets of matched, fancy china. Fox says you can use the dishes and servingware you already have—feel free to mix and match patterns and styles—and add a few borrowed pieces if you need to. “I like mixing vintage pieces that were my grandmother’s with new stuff I’ve gotten at Crate & Barrel or West Elm,” she says. “Maybe, I go for some consistency with spoons, but not matching is kind of fun. It’s an eclectic mix.”
If you prefer a streamlined, more minimalist look, go for a single color (or bright white) that really lets the food shine. You can add interest by using serving dishes of different heights. “You can build different heights right at the table by adding a few wooden cutting boards or something else underneath the dishes,” she says.
A Modern Kids’ Table
Don’t settle for a card table in the corner—bring the kids’ table (and any other secondary dining tables) into the fold by adding some of the same elements from the main dining table. “We add some of the same flower vases and maybe some flameless candles,” Fox says. Since it’s hard to expect kids to sit for long stretches, add an activity by covering the table with craft paper and offering crayons or markers. At Thanksgiving dinner, have everyone write or draw something they’re thankful for. For other winter holidays, add a fun spin with a contest, like “Draw your best version of a Christmas tree.”
Fox on Foxwell
Fox, an Edina Realtor and home designer, has collaborated with her husband, Brad, on home projects all over the Twin Cities and beyond. A few years ago, the couple gained national recognition when they hosted their own show on HGTV, Should I Stay or Should I Go? Most recently, their business has expanded to include a brick-and-mortar design studio and retail space in the heart of Edina. “It’s more experiential—you can come in and touch and feel the products,” she says. “It’s a passion project. I love doing it, and it’s an easy addition to what we already do.” Clients can visit Foxwell simply to shop or to brainstorm finishing touches for a design project.